Subject: 39 Articles of Religion
Message: From The Rev. Vernon Staley on the 39 Articles of Religion:
Many years ago for my catechism my priest used four books with us: The Bible, the BCP, Wilson's "Faith and Practice," and Staley's "The Catholic Religion." We are not Congegational or Confessional. We are Credal. The 39 AR makes us sound like we have a Confession. The statements are the remnant of the Via Media of Eliz I. I still read from TCR nearly weekly. Here is what Fr. Staley had to say about the Articles of Religion:
The Catholic Religion
A MANUAL OF INSTRUCTION
FOR MEMBERS OF THE
11th Edition, A.D. 1900
By The Reverend Vernon Staley
CHAPTER I, THE XXXIX ARTICLES, page 383-384
The Thirty-nine Articles are not Articles of Faith like the Creeds, and they are not imposed on members of the Anglican Church as necessary terms of communion. The clergy only subscribe them, and the sense in which the subscription is understood, has been stated by Archbishop Bramhall as follows; “We do not hold our Thirty-nine Articles to be such necessary truths, ‘without which there is no salvation;’ nor enjoin ecclesiastic persons to swear unto them, but only to subscribe them, as theological truths, for the preservation of unity among us. Some of them are the very same that are contained in the Creed; some others of them are practical truths, which come not within the proper list of points or articles to be believed; lastly, some of them are pious opinions or inferior truths which are proposed by the Church of England as not to be opposed; not as essentials of Faith necessary to be believed.” (1) Bishop Bull wrote similarly, “The Church of England professeth not to deliver all her Articles as essentials of faith, without the belief whereof no man can be saved; but only propounds them as a body of safe and pious principles, for the preservation of peace to be subscribed, and not openly contradicted by her sons. And, therefore, she requires subscription to them only from the clergy, and not from the laity.” (2)
“The Articles are to be subscribed to in the sense intended by those whose authority makes the subscription requisite.” (3) It must always be remembered that the same Convocation, in the same set of Canons which first required subscription to the Articles, in 1571, enjoined that preachers should only teach “that which is agreeable to the doctrine of the Old and New Testaments, and that which the Catholic fathers and ancient bishops have collected out of the same doctrine.” “It seems” says Mr. Keble, “no violent inference, that the appointed measure of doctrine preached, was also intended to be the measure of doctrine delivered in the way of explanation of doubtful passages in formularies.” (4)
It is quite evident, therefore, that the Articles would be understood by the clergy who first subscribed them as Articles of Peace for the preservation of unity. They were not religious tests, or Articles of Faith; they were made as comprehensive as possible, and they were to be interpreted and understood in accordance with the general rule of Catholic tradition, i.e., in the Catholic sense. (5)
(1) Works, vol. ii, pp.201, 476.
(2) A Vindication of the Church of England, xxvii.
(3) Keble’s Catholic Subscription to the xxxix. Articles, p. 13.
(4) Ibid., p. 15.
(5) “I understand by the Catholic sense, that sense which is most conformable to the ancient rule, ‘Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab amnibus.’” Ibid., p. 14.
Well, during my catechesis in the Anglican Catholic Church, I also read Staley's work, but as any number of posts here at OJC on the matter of Anglican formularies would show my reader, I eventally concluded that the typical Anglo-Catholic take on the Articles, as represented by Staley in this passage, begs the essential question as to the Articles' confessional status (and which is one of the reasons I left the ACC). Most Anglo-Catholics say things to the effect of "we are not confessional, but credal." The English Reformers, most Old High Churchman and Evangelical Anglicans say, "Not so. We are both confessional and credal." So there we are. J.I. Packer, for instance, argues that the Articles are every bit as credal as the Nicene Creed. Conversely, both are confessional documents. The only Anglicans who deny that Anglicanism is a confessional faith are liberal and Anglo-Catholic revisionists.
Bishop H. Hensley Henson, no Evangelical he, had this to say about the Articles:
The raison d’etre of subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles is the necessity, in a divided Christendom, of agreeing on a version of the Catholic Faith. In the Articles we have the Anglican version of the Catholic tradition of Faith and Discipline. It is not open to any loyal Anglican to form any other.
Alike for negotiations with other branches of the Church, and for the instruction of its own members, some authoritative statement of specifically Anglican teaching and practice is really indispensable. Such an authoritative statement is provided by the Thirty-nine Articles, and, if they were abandoned, it would be necessary to provide a substitute.
So long as the Christian society is divided on issues so fundamental as to transcend even the interest of visible unity, separate Churches must exist, and must show cause for doing so. It would be manifestly intolerable that men should be authorized to minister as officers and teachers who did not assent to the doctrine and discipline of the Church which commissioned them. It would be not less intolerable if the parishioners were to possess no security against mere individualism on the part of the clergy. Therefore it seems to follow that Subscription is really indispensable, as well for the protection of the people as for the security of the Church.
When, however, we pass from theoretical considerations to the actual situation in the Church of England at the present time, we are confronted by a strange spectacle of doctrinal confusion which demonstrates the failure of Subscription to secure either of the two objects for which presumably it was designed. It does not provide any effective guarantee of the doctrinal soundness of the subscribing clergy, and it does not protect the people from heretical parsons. The Church of England, at the present time, exhibits a doctrinal incoherence which has no parallel in any other church claiming to be traditionally orthodox. (The Church of England, pp.107 ff.)
I believe Henson hit the nail on the head with everything he said here: Anglicanism, as a local manifestation of the Catholic Church that agreed in the 16th century with the need for reform, sets forth authoritatively the Anglican understanding of the Catholic faith as expressed in the Articles, and, if they are to be abandoned, something else needs to take their place. To the Anglo-Catholic, what needs to take their place is an unreformed Catholicism that purportedly bears the same character as the undivided church of the first millennium. However, not every Anglican is on board with that agenda, so when my reader refers to "we" ("we are not confessional"), I must ask straightaway, "what's this 'we' $#*!"? ;)
Henson is also on the mark on how the abandonment of the Articles by liberals and Anglo-Catholics has led to the present state of doctrinal chaos in Anglicanism, and Anglican theologians such as Packer and Gillis Harp have argued that re-embracing the Articles, indeed read in a Catholic manner but WITHOUT washing out their Augustinian and Reformed content, can help to eliminate the doctrinal chaos that has long plagued our church. At least Staley, unlike many AC's believed that Anglican clergy were required "to subscribe them, as theological truths, for the preservation of unity among us." (Emphasis mine.)
"I see Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, has said that we climate deniers are 'sinful'. Who knew the Episcopal Church still had sins?" - Mark Steyn
It is important to know who our friends are. Anglo-Catholics generally believe in Trinity, Scripture, atonement, resurrection, judgement, prayer, etc. A ‘higher’ view of sacraments and priesthood seems secondary in the light of those primary correspondences. I can be friends with Anglo-Catholics. Modern Anglo-Catholicism has a different agenda from in the past. I can, with qualifications, be friends with Anglo-Catholics. I have good will towards Forward in Faith. Liberals are different, denying many of the aforementioned. We have let Liberals get away with too much with regard to leadership in the past.
For those preparing themselves for the Coming Storm:
1. Jim Kalb's blog Turnabout. Kalb's work is a must for Christian culture warriors. In addition to his blog, you simply must read The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command and Against Inclusiveness: How the Diversity Regime is Flattening America and the West and What to Do About It;
Thus far here, here and here, by one "Stefano", all today, March 29. Given the somewhat frenetic pace and tone of his comments, I halfway expect more to be posted to blog entries in the Eastern Orthodoxy archive. We'll see. (Update, March 30. Was I right, or what?)
I must confess that I am beginning to grow a little weary of exchanging volleys with the Orthodox, especially now that I've offered the olive branch of a new ecumenical bonhomie here at The Old Jamestown Church. Predictably, Stefano's given us nothing but standard talking points, and I am not in a rush to respond. I'll try to hammer out a response sometime after Holy Week.
This blogger thinks so. It's a matter I intend to look into more seriously when time permits.
On a related subject, when I peruse the web for what's going on in the "evangelical" world these days, I'm afraid the term "evangelical" means anything and nothing. I'd be tempted to abandon the term altogether were it not for the fact that it has a long and honored history in the Church, as it it is a cognate of the world "Gospel." Somehow we Evangelical Catholics need to reclaim it. I try to do it by telling people I'm an "old school" Evangelical and that by that I mean a Christian who believes the apostolic doctrines of grace as set forth in the great Protestant confessions, which doctrines not only cohere with but flow inexorably from the orthodox triadology and christology of the Catholic Church. For us old school Evangelicals, Creed and Confession go together. We can only be truly Evangelical if we are rooted in the Great Tradition. That means being Catholic.
To be read in conjuction with this.
UECNA's Presiding Bishop Peter Robinson has written yet another compelling article outlining why classical Anglicanism is neither "Catholicism with married priests", "Western Orthodoxy" nor the "English version of Calvinism." Rather,
In the end one has to accept that the Church of England, and thus the churches of the Anglican tradition, if they are going to be true to the historic formularies of the Church, have to concede that the core doctrinal position of the Church is Augustinianism, and lies somewhere between confessional Lutheranism, and confessional Calvinism in its particulars.
My own studies lead me toward a position that is very similar if not identical to the view His Grace defends in this article.
Will ACNA keep women's ordination or won't it? Links to Wilhelm's previous two articles can be found at the end of this article.
An Australian reader sent this to me in early February:
Can you please tell me how someone can be an Anglo-Catholic or High Church Anglican and believe in the 39 articles of faith and homilies? Isn’t there a conflict between the Catholic worship style with the real prescene in the Eucharist etc and the evangelical nature of the articles and homilies? I keep being told that to be Anglican is to be Catholic and Protestant but each parish seems to only focus on one. This is something I am struggling with and would like some help in understanding it.
My reader touches on several key issues in his query, but in order to give what I hope will be an adequate answer, those issues need to be teased out and examined.
First, there is the question of terminology with respect to the terms "Anglo-Catholic" and "High Church Anglican". As Peter Nockles argues in his book The Oxford Movement in Context: Anglican High Churchmanship, 1760-1857, the term "Anglo-Catholic" has historically been difficult to define with precision. Read his comments here.
So it remains today. "Anglo-Catholic" and "High Church Anglican" refer to different phenomena, but I personally know Anglican who call themselves "Anglo-Catholics" when they are really noting more than Old High Church Protestants. And sometimes the term "High Church" is applied to the Tractarian Movement and its progeny, when it really shouldn't be. I know Anglicans who call themselves "Anglo-Catholics", most of whom reject the 39 Articles but others who embrace them as Anglicanism's confession. It's all very confusing.
The next issue concerns the authority of the Articles and the Book of Homilies. There are many confessional Anglicans who question whether the Homilies should share the same degree of authority that the Articles. I am one of them, for reasons I won't go into here.
Next, there is the question of what is meant by "Catholic worship style". I suppose whether something is "Catholic worship style" depends on the perspective of the observer. Many Baptists take issue with what they perceive to be the "Catholic worship style" of Reformed and Presbyterian liturgies, whereas Anglo-Catholics and High Church Anglicans would consider those liturgies to be snake-belly low and hence very unCatholic. My reader does explain that by that term he associates the doctrine of real presence. But Lutherans believe in a version of real presence, and yet they are everywhere regarded as Protestants.
Some Anglo-Protestants also believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, along with the Lutherans. However, I have found that when some of these Anglicans refer to "real presence", they're really referring to the Calvinistic/Cranmerian view. Ergo: more terminological confusion.
The bottom line is that I share the reader's frustration over the question of Anglican identity. The various styles of churchmanship do tend to manifest themselves parish by parish. Anglicanism being what it is, however, I think it's pretty much what we have to expect -- and live with, at least for the foreseeable future.
St. Peter's Anglican Church, Akaroa, New Zealand
My wife and I returned from New Zealand yesterday. Other than being able to attend an Ash Wednesday service at St. Peter's Anglican Church in Akaroa, NZ (above photo), my Lent is off to a late start. So, I've decided to enter into the season now that we're back in the States with this poem from an Anglican priest, which I shared last year and which I may share every year going forward, since it captures the true spirit of the season. (In a tip of the hat to the Orthodox, I don't know how many times the Lenten spirit of Herrick's poem was stressed in the Lenten seasons of my 13-year stint in the Orthodox Church, regardless of the austerity of the Orthodox Lenten fast. I even heard one story about an Orthodox priest who, in confession, counseled a man to drink copious amounts of beer during Lent to counter his judgmental spirit.):
TO KEEP THY LENT
BY Robert Herrick (1591-1647)
Is this a Fast, to keep
The larder lean?
From fat of veals and sheep?
Is it to quit the dish
Of flesh, yet still
The platter high with fish?
Is it to fast an hour,
Or ragg'd to go,
A downcast look and sour?
No: 'tis a Fast to dole
Thy sheaf of wheat
Unto the hungry soul.
It is to fast from strife
From old debate,
To circumcise thy life.
To show a heart grief rent;
To starve thy sin,
And that's to keep thy Lent.
I humbly request that all my readers donate to this worthy organization. It is legal to do so.
It's all well and good for us to lament for our brethren by posting cries of "Lord have mercy" on Facebook, quoting Scriptures about the reality of martyrdom in this world, and stressing the need to pray for them. As the Christian militiaman Gabriel says in the video below from The Patriot, "Yes, PRAY for them, but HONOR them as well by taking up arms to fight with us." We here in the free West need to honor them by supporting them materially as well as spiritually. That means we need to send bodies, arms and money. When I get back from New Zealand I plan to research these groups and how, provided they are graft free, Christians can do so. So far I have found only this: Iraqi Christians Form Anti-ISIS Militia, and You Can Legally Chip In.
Now is the time to start praying that the storm will be averted by replacing, forever, liberal states everywhere with a more traditional model of government. And if the church does not find its tongue on this issue, and soon, the traditional model may be neo-pagan and neo-fascist, not Christian.
Gates of Vienna: Is European Civil War Inevitable by 2025?